TABR16- Day 16

Sleeping in my bivy behind the Toronto United Methodist Church, I was awoken by something on the ground near me, rooting around. Coming out of sleep, I first thought it was someone, then realized it was someTHING and my brain was thinking a dog. I sat up, turned my light on and looked around to find an armadillo scavenging around. Knowing they are harmless and that I had spooked it anyway, I laid back down and tried to fall back asleep. A short time later it was back. I shooed it on and slept again until my alarm went off at 5:30AM. I ended up with about 4.5 hours off the bike , which was about 4 hours of sleep with the interruptions.

As I got up and riding, it was still dark out. I was glad to be rolling out of town before anyone noticed me camped out in the church yard. I felt kind of like a thief in the night. I hadn’t taken anything, but I came in after the townsfolk were in bed and was up and gone before they got up. Not a soul had known I was there.

As the sun came up I warmed up and the legs were feeling good as I rolled along. The terrain was becoming more rolling hills, which felt like home and gave me encouragement. I was really looking forward to getting to my home state and I would make it there that day!

Just before 7:00AM, as I rode into the bright, early-morning sun, I noticed two riders approaching from the opposite direction. It was none other than Neil & Adi Coventry-Brown! They are from New Zealand and Adi was a fellow TABR15 veteran. It was great to see them just because I wanted to see them, but also nice to see fellow racers. Although there were 50-something others racing West-East, due to us all being strewn about on the route, it was rare to see anyone other than the few folks who were riding near. The three of us stopped to chat a few minutes, exchanged pictures and then carried on. It was a treat to see them!

I got to Chanute about 8:15 and stopped at a gas station for supplies and some breakfast. I loaded up the best I could and got back to riding quickly.

As I rode on through the morning, it was really starting to heat up. The respite from the heat and humidity we had the day before had been short. Things were setting up for another scorcher. I made the title town of Walnut about 10:30 and found a convenience store where I went inside to take a break in the air conditioning. I ate an ice cream and drank some cold drinks while listening to some locals chat. After about 30 minutes I hit the road again.

I stayed moving for the next couple hours despite my desire to stop in the heat. I knew I needed to stay moving in order to make a good day. When I got to Pittsburg, I decided to take another good break to cool off and eat. I found a mom & pop style diner on the main drag and went in for lunch. The owner was there, a old man of almost 80 years. He made conversation with me while I ate. It is always nice for me when I get to chat with folks. After a little over an hour, I gathered myself and headed back out in the heat. I stopped at a gas station for drinks and snacks as I left town and set my sights on the MO-KS border, just a few miles away.

In no time I saw the welcoming sign for the Missouri border. It felt so good to be “home”! I snapped a pic and called my wife to let her know I had made it to the line. Each little delineation was another goal marked off in my head and this one was a little more special to me than most folks, I would imagine.

The extreme Western part of Missouri is pretty flat, filled with nothing but farm land, which means one thing- no shade. The sun was baking the road and me. Only having made about 10 miles into my home state, I was feeling cooked. I came up on a farm house with a nicely cut yard and a pretty little shade tree near the road. I did what I had done several times along my journey when wanting to rest out in the open- I laid my bike down in the shaded grass, then laid myself down in the grass with my legs draped over my bike. If for whatever reason someone decided to come along and try to take my bike while I slept, they would have to roll me off of it to get it! I laid in the shade for about a half hour, cooling off a bit and trying to nap. Almost the entire time there were biting flies that wouldn’t leave me alone. I don’t think I ever really slept much, but eventually got tired of shooing flies and hit the road again.

Once up and moving, I was looking ahead to Golden City and the iconic Cooky’s Cafe. I wasn’t sure when they closed, but I thought I might be cutting it close. I got to town about 5:45PM and found them open. It made me happy to see! Cooky’s is a tradition for touring cyclists on the Trans Am. Despite the fact that I was racing and needed to stay moving, I still needed to eat and I planned to do it there. That would also give me the chance to eat some of their world famous pie. I leaned my bike up outside and went in to feast on a burger, fries, Coke and pie.

When I finished my meal, I came outside and started to take off, only to find that I had a flat. Upon further inspection, I saw that the valve stem had been ripped where it meets the tube. That really disappointed me as I felt like it didn’t just accidentally happen that way while my bike sat leaning against the building. I figure someone did it, but I didn’t see anyone around. I changed the tube out and pumped it back up. Then it was across town to a gas station to get supplies for the road. Night was coming and I would be going through some unpopulated areas. Likely any stores I would come across would be closed and I would need to have things to make it through the night.

Between Cooky’s, my flat and the station stop, I had spent way too much time in little Golden City. By the time I left town it was 7:15. I had spent an hour and a half there. Add that to my other stops for the day and I just wasn’t making great headway.

I rolled on into the evening and away from the sunset. I quickly got out of the flat areas and started hitting the hills. The hills weren’t really a problem and actually were welcome after all of the plains. What wasn’t welcome were the bugs! The amount of bugs that came out after dark was amazing. All sorts of flying things. So many that I had to make sure to keep my mouth closed while riding. That can be an issue when you are climbing punchy little steep hills and get out of breath!

As I rode on through the evening, I was contemplating what I would do for the night. My day hadn’t been as productive as I wanted it to be, but I was in Missouri. One part of me wanted to ride on late into the night and another wanted to stop, sleep and hit it hard the next day. As I rode through the spot in the road that isEverton, there were some young kids out in their pickups driving crazy. I hoped to make it through unnoticed, but that wasn’t the case. They drove by closely and smoked me out with their diesel smoke. If only I could get my hands on one of them….just once!!! I carried on out of town and a couple miles down the road, they came back around for round two. I was frustrated and tired. I made the decision to stop and bivy at the next place I could.

Remote Missouri highways don’t have very many places to bivy. The sides of the roads are grown up high with weeds, which means ticks and chiggers if you crawl off into it.I didn’t want any part of that. Most every spot where you can find cut grass is actually someone’s yard, so that doesn’t work well. The best idea I had was to find a park in a town or something like that. I rode on and was coming close to Ash Grove. I figured I would find something there.

Right before I got to town, there was a guy on a bike that came out to meet me. Greg Hoffman had driven from Ozark, MO up to Ash Grove to come out and ride with me for awhile. Unfortunately he had no idea that I planned to stop just a mile down the road for the evening. I felt terrible that I wasn’t able to oblige him for longer, but it was what it would be. We rode into town and found a local couple who had come out as well. They were the keepers of the local hostel in the park in town and were a pleasure to meet. They gave me directions to the hostel and Greg rode with me up to the park.

The hostel was simple, but everything I would need and then some. I arrived about 10:30 and Enrico was there sleeping. I went out back to the shower house, got cleaned up, then went back in and spread my bedding out on the floor in the common room where Enrico was and went to sleep. It hadn’t been my best day by far at 169 miles, but I was back “home” with big plans for the days ahead.

 

 

TABR16- Day 15

When I went to bed in Larned, the stage was set for a stormy evening. I set my alarm to leave in the night, but when I woke, the storm was still getting after it pretty good. I rolled over and went back to sleep. This happened a few times through the early morning hours until things started to clear up about 5:30AM. I got up, packed up, went across the street to a convenience store for some breakfast and then hit the road. I saw Enrico at the store as well. He left before me, but I caught up and passed him in just a couple miles.

The overnight storms had pushed through and left me with fantastic weather! Cool temps, gentle winds and blue skys were the order of the day. A cyclist’s delight! I rolled along eating up miles. I had my sights set on Newton, for several reasons, but mostly to replace my severely worn tires, particularly the rear. It was so thin that threads were showing on the tread and the tube was almost visible in a few spots. I should have swapped it out with the front in order to even out the wear some, but I felt it was too late for that. Being so worn, I was concerned about it not being safe on the front. I would much rather have it blow on me on the rear.

I was rolling and feeling good. The big meal I had the night before and the extra sleep I got trying to stay out of the overnight thunderstorms were paying dividends. A few miles before Nickerson, I caught up with Andrew Stevens-Cox. We made pleasantries and I rode on. I was on a mission!

A little before noon and about 72 miles into my day, as I passed under the Hwy 61 overpass just outside Medora, my rear tire gave up the ghost. I was a little more than concerned. I was still between 35 and 40 miles from Newton, where my tires I had shipped ahead were waiting on me. When I took the wheel and tire off and saw the gaping holes in the tread I wasn’t encouraged. The tube had poked through the holes and burst. I did the only thing I could think to do. I had about 3 feet of duct tape folded over on itself in my repair kit. I used it to boot the inside of the tire casing in the spots where it was missing worst. I didn’t have enough tape to go all the way around, but made due with it the best I could. I then remounted the tire with a spare tube and pumped it up. It held, so I took off down the road again thinking, “it just has to make it 35 miles”.

Immediately I recognized a difference in performance. The duct tape boots made the tire out of balance. A lot! It produced a thump-thump sort of bump with every revolution as I rode. It was super uncomfortable, but I just kept telling myself that it was better than walking!

I rode on, just praying my fix would hold. It made me quite nervous as I thought about it. After awhile I came to the determination that I had no choice and there wasn’t a point in getting worked up about it. I would just have to ride it out. If the tire went down on me, I would try to figure out another solution or walk to Newton.

I rolled straight through Heston and on to Newton, feeling every revolution of my wheel. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. A little bit of calculation tells me that my tire and wheel size rolls out at  762.7 revolutions per mile. That means it thump-thumped approximately 26,695 times in 35 miles and I felt each and every bone-jarring one.

As I came down the street toward Newton Bike Shop, James and Heather were outside waiting on me to get there. Knowing my thread-bare tires were done and I would be throwing them away, I came sliding in, locking up the brakes for fun. The rear tire just shredded! I didn’t care. I had made it to Newton!

Newton Bike Shop(NBS) was fantastic. Jay P and Mark had arrived just a bit before me. I didn’t bother with introductions right away though. First things first, James took my bike inside and Heather showed me the direction to the showers at the civic center just down the street. Once I was clean (and wearing their loaner clothes), my bike clothes were washed for me while I ate. After eating, I found the box of parts I had shipped ahead and was given the go ahead to use the shop tools to go to work. I replaced both tires, my chain and replaced the repair items I had used in my kit. I then gathered up anything I didn’t need, including some of the things I was carrying, like my cold weather gear, and boxed it all up for shipment home. For just $20 plus the cost of shipping my box, I was given quite a royal treatment. Something that doesn’t happen anywhere else on the route.

I am not sure how all the racers that were there came in, but the list of riders at NBS while I was there was significant. Jay P & Mark were already there when I got there at 2:15PM. While I was at the shop, the following came in: Enrico, Jason, George, Andrew, Michela and Stefano. That is a whole bunch of crazy, exhausted, stinky, tired and wild-eyed endurance racers in one place at one time! We all got some pretty spectacular service.

Quite a few guys planned to stay and sleep a bit at Newton. I knew if I stayed I would  quite possibly end up getting sucked into the cush that was there. It was nice, but I needed to be moving. I tried to be as nonchalant as I could as I packed up. I didn’t want a mass exodus going with me. I would rather let them all stay to eat and sleep awhile. 🙂

While I was gathering my things, Enrico started doing the same. Mark was having some terrible issues with Shermer’s Neck, a nerve problem for endurance racers where you can’t physically hold your head up. He was in pain and wouldn’t be able to carry on. Jay decided to carry on solo and was gathering his stuff as well. I thanked the Barringers, got the obligatory photos and took off right about 6:00PM. I was the first of the group out and planned to make tracks.

I grabbed some supplies at a gas station on my way out of Newton and put the hammer down, as much as a guy who has ridden 2500 miles over 15 days can. I knew Jay would be coming and I wanted to make as much ground as I could before he caught me. I had no elusions of staying in front of him, but I didn’t want to just roll over either.

It was about 40 miles to Cassoday from Newton and James had said that the little store there closed at 9:00. I kept the pedals turning and made it to the Cassoday store just north off the route a block or two at about 8:35. I grabbed a sandwich and some other supplies. I fully expected Jay and Enrico to pull up at any moment, but I never saw them. About 8:55 I hit the road again, excited that I was still out in front of them.

As I got back to the route, I noticed a couple tail lights of cyclists out in front of me. I assumed Enrico and Jay had caught up, but chose not to stop at the store! I stayed at it and eventually caught them a few miles out of town. Much to my surprise, they hadn’t skipped the store on purpose, but rather didn’t know where it was. My previous experience touring the route in 2011 had paid off for me this time and I had supplies when they didn’t.

The three of us rode on into the night staying somewhat near each other. I took the opportunity to ride near Jay some and chat with him. It was really cool to get to pick the brain of someone with such a rich endurance racing pedigree. We carried on and the miles ticked away.

The three of us rolled into Eureka about 11:30 and stopped at a gas station for food and drinks. We all ate and packed things on our bikes knowing full well we wouldn’t have any services for the rest of the night.

I was a bit amped up. There had been plenty of times over the previous two weeks where I felt the pull of the race, but being near Enrico and Jay took it up a few notches. We had all talked about plans for the night. Jay let on like he wouldn’t stop and just ride through. I liked the idea, but was a bit concerned about the ramifications on my body over the next couple days after that, knowing there was still 1800 miles left in the race. I grabbed enough food to last if I decided to ride through. The three of us hit the road again and rode out of town into the dark Kansas night.

As we rode on, I was starting to get tired. It was late, I had ridden nearly 200 miles and the more I thought about it, the last thing I needed to do was get in a pissing contest with Jay Petervary in the middle of a race. About 25 miles down the road, we came into the little burg of Toronto. It was about 1AM and the sidewalks were rolled up. There wasn’t even a dog out moving around. Everything was still. I had made my decision not to chase Jay, so I figured Toronto was as good a place as any to hole up for the night. I said my goodbyes and good lucks to the Jay and Enrico, then shut off my lights and started coasting, letting them go on ahead. It was a bit defeating watching them ride off into the night, but I had made my choice.

I rode around a couple streets until I found a church. I went around the back of the building, leaned my bike up and laid my bivy down right in front of it. It was pretty humid and warm in my bivy, but the mosquitos were out and I didn’t want to wake up a corpse having lost all my blood to the pests. The bivy would be a good barrier. I fell asleep quickly, having completed 204 miles on the day.

TABR16- Day 14

As always, the alarm came way too early, but the desire to have a great day overcame the magnet that seemed to hold my head to any horizontal surface. All the bad things usually take place in the afternoons and evenings: heat, winds, storms and more traffic. It is much better to get up and make hay as early as possible. I got up and hit the door running within minutes.

The ride was peaceful and easy. It was dark, the road was flat, the traffic non-exsistant and the air was still. Quickly I was struggling to keep my eyes open. There just wasn’t anything to spark me into consciousness and keep me there. I plowed on doing all I could to stay awake and looking forward to a cup of coffee in Dighton.

When I got to Dighton, everything was all shut up. Frustrated that I couldn’t get coffee and couldn’t keep my eyes open, I opened up the maps on my phone and found a park a couple blocks away. I rode over, rolled out my bivy and went to sleep. At the time, my thoughts were that it didn’t make sense to sit and wait for the gas station to open when I could be sleeping. The better plan probably would’ve been to sleep there so I would be able to get in when they opened. Either way, I did what I did and slept in the park. After a couple of snooze buttons worth of time, it was 6:30AM and time was getting away from me. I packed up, went to the station for a shot of caffeine and got back on the road. Unfortunately I had wasted about 1 hour and 45 minutes on my respite.

Back on the road, I felt better and was rolling along, but not with intention really. After a few miles, Enrico caught me up from behind. Seeing that he was on a mission sparked me finally and I began to pick it up. I set out ahead and tried to maintain a good pace.

As the morning went on, the wind started pumping up out of the south/southeast at a good clip and the sun cranked up the UV rays. It was really getting hot and the quartering headwind was a challenge in the mostly flat and treeless landscape. I rolled fairly quickly through Ness City, making a short gas station stop and got back to moving right away. It. Was. Hot. Upwards of 100F.

I stumbled in to Greg’s Sports Pub & Grub in Rush Center about 1:30PM scorched and battered by the nasty quartering headwind. I knew that the turn in the route to the South just outside Greg’s was going to be a pill, putting me a bit more square up against the wind. I wanted to cool off and get some food to be fueled up for that task. The waitress got me a cold coke and said that I had made it just in time. It’s a small family run business and they close in the middle of the afternoon so that they get a break after lunch and before the evening rush. I figured more power to them for running their business how they want, but rather unfortunate for the folks behind me that would be coming through. Enrico came in the door shortly after that and they agreed to serve him as well, but we would both have to go soon so they could close. The two of us quickly finished our food and got back out into the afternoon sun. I left just behind Enrico. It was 2:15PM.

From Rush Center it was 19 miles due South. On the bright side, the terrain was beginning to have just a hint of rolling hills to break up the monotony. The bad part- I was headed pretty much straight into a nasty headwind and the temperature was right about 100F. It felt like riding an indoor trainer, at top speed, sitting in front of a heater vent….in the summer. It was just nasty hot and the dry wind felt like it was sucking the moisture from me faster than I could put it in. I was drinking as much as I could, but it wasn’t enough. Despite this, I caught Enrico up after a few miles. We leapfrogged a few times and I ended up in front of him. Neither of us were moving fast. We just couldn’t.

After almost 2 hours, I had made a whopping 17 miles progress across what seemed to be endless rolling hills of farmland. It was a struggle for every pedal stroke. To make matters worse, I ran out of water and I knew that it was 2 more miles south into the wind, then at least 5 more with a quartering wind to Fort Larned, a historical site where I MIGHT be able to get water. Beyond that, it would be another 7 miles to Larned. At the pace I had been maintaining in the wind, the ride to Larned might take as much as 2 more hours. Without water, that could be a death march. I was getting to a point where it was going to be an issue if I didn’t find some water pretty quick.

Like manna from heaven, a house appeared amongst some cedars on the west side of the road. I am pretty sure, in my mind at least, the heavens parted and the angels sang at that moment. I rolled up the driveway and Enrico was not far behind. I knocked on the door, but nobody answered. Enrico and I went around the side of the house and found a spigot. We let it run a minute to clear out the line, then filled our bottles and drank what we could. While we were getting the water, the homeowner pulled in the driveway. An older man with the typical farmer look got out of his truck and we went to meet him. He was perfectly fine with us getting water and added that we “must be crazy riding in this heat”. I concurred, thanked him for the use of his spigot and got back on the road.

Although I had water, the temperature and wind were relentless. The 7 miles to Fort Larned took another 45 minutes. By the time I got there I was scorched. I pulled up to the restrooms not far off the highway and went inside for shade. I ended up hanging out there for a half hour. I would’ve stayed longer, but the lady that was the park ranger on duty came through to lock the restrooms up for the evening and told me I had to leave. Reluctantly I got back on the road and limped in to Larned, another 7 miles down the road.

I got to Larned right at 6:00PM and found a Casey’s gas station. First things first, I got some cold drinks and tried to cool off. I then started to load up on food and drinks to push on and decided I needed to eat something more substantial. Just down the road was a Pizza Hut. I figured that would do. I leaned my bike up outside and went in to feast. I ate enough for two people and drank soda as fast as the wait staff could bring it to me, all in the comfort of air conditioning. It was bliss. While I ate, one of the managers came by and chatted me up. He noticed my garb and started asking questions, as he was a cyclist too. I told him a short version of what I was doing and he listened intently. He was fascinated to hear the story. We chatted a bit, then he wished me luck and went back to work. Once I finished my meal, I waited a bit for the check and soon asked about it, thinking it had taken a bit longer than it should have. The manager I had spoken with told me that he had taken care of the tab and I was free to go. I thanked him profusely and left. The people I met on this trip were just wonderful.

While I had been eating, I checked the weather and saw a big storm coming. At that point I decided that I had done about all I wanted for the day. I would end the day with only 120 miles, way short of the mileage I wanted, but I was ok with that. Despite my lack of miles, I had still put in the time. The wind and heat had just had their way with me. I could try to get more miles, but I didn’t want to tempt a nasty thunder storm after such a hot and difficult afternoon. I found the Townsman Inn just down the road, got a room, got my clothes cleaned and went to bed. Later the lightning and thunder came as well as an absolute frog-choking rain storm. I was happy to be inside.

TABR16- Day 13

I woke to my alarm after 3 hours of sleep on a gravel pile in Eastern Colorado. I was hungry and cold, but anxious to get the day going. I had made good strides the day before and needed to double down and have another good day. The bright side was that I was now in the flat area of the route and wouldn’t have the quad-crushing climbs of the Rockies to deal with anymore. I got moving and set my sights on Ordway.

I rolled into Ordway a little after 6:00AM and rode down the main street of town looking for a place to grab some food, but nothing at all was open. I got back on route and found a gas station at the edge of town. I scarfed down a couple burritos and some coffee, loaded up with snacks and drinks for the morning and headed back out.

My next stop was in Eads, the advertised halfway point of the Trans Am. I had made it half way! Of course, like most of the milestones on the Trans Am, there was nobody around at the monument and sign board in the middle of town. I snapped a quick selfie for proof, texted it to my wife and carried on. Before leaving town, I stopped at a diner to grab some lunch. I was 83 miles into my day and it was really starting to get hot out. I was ready for a break from the heat.

When I parked my bike, I noticed two other bikes there. Inside was the Italian pair, Stefano Gamper and Michela Ton. Stefano’s English was limited, so I had a hard time communicating with him. Michela’s was a notch better. We chatted a bit as they finished up their meal and filled bottles. I got my food and ate quickly hoping to get back out and stay close to them. I wanted to keep “race mode” in mind and not spend too much time stopped. Before I could finish my meal, in walked Enrico Comunello, another Italian racer. His English was pretty good and we enjoyed some conversation. I wrapped up my meal and he ate quickly. We ended up leaving about the same time.

Enrico and I rode near each other for awhile, chatting off and on, but overall, we were riding different paces so it wasn’t for very long.  We leapfrogged each other quite a bit. At one point during the day, near the tiny town of Brandon, the heat was getting to me and I was getting tired. I would have loved to find a place to rest in the shade, but the land was truly flat as a pancake and there were no trees for miles. As I rode through the little town, there was a grain elevator with a little scale house next to it for weighing trucks that haul grain. In front of the scale house was a small porch and what seemed to be the only square yard of shade for miles around. I rode over and laid down on the concrete porch, resting in the shade for a bit. I slept maybe 15 mins or so, just long enough to feel a little better and then got back to riding. In the mean time, Enrico had passed.  When I started riding again, I soon passed Enrico. I think he had stopped as well. This leap frog thing took place over and over again.

In Sheridan Lake I stopped at a gas station, more than anything just to get out of the heat. Soon after, Enrico came in. We both were getting smoked by the sun. Ice creams and drinks were the refreshments we chose and they were oh so good on such a hot day. It was funny to think that just 24 hours before I had been trying to stay warm in the mountains!

I left the station first and had my sights set on 15 miles ahead- the Kansas state line! I crossed into Kansas and was elated to knock yet another state off the list. I only had 4 more states to go, but still had over 2000 miles left!

As I made my way across the extremely flat landscape, I could see for miles and miles in every direction. Tribune, the next town ahead, was visible on the horizon for what seemed like eternity. The old joke about flat lands that “you can watch your dog run away for three days” comes to mind. There is literally nothing as far as the eye can see except for crops. Flat and tree-less also means that when the wind blows, it really gets after it! As I approached Tribune, that is exactly what was happening. A strong wind was kicking up from the Southeast, giving me a quartering headwind. There was nothing to be done about it but ride.

I stopped in Tribune at the truck stop there. I sat in the dining area eating, drinking and cooling off. Enrico came in shortly and loaded up on food and drinks. He was quick and got back on the road. I hit the road soon after and set out to catch up. I soon did, but not wanting to get too close, I stayed back, keeping him within a hundred yards or so. The wind was really starting to get difficult to deal with, but my shadow was getting longer and evening would come soon. Hopefully that would mean the winds died down as well.

About 10 miles outside Tribune I crossed the Central Time Zone line. It was another milestone to check off. Every little delineation counts. It would however mean that I “lost” an hour. Not a big deal in the grand scheme, but it can make a difference when you are trying to make it to small stores in sleepy towns where the sidewalks roll up at night.

I rolled through Leoti a little before 8:00PM, passing Jay and Mark, who had who had gotten in front of me a few days before somewhere. Enrico stopped in Leoti as well, leaving me to chase after the Italian pair.

As the sun set, the wind stayed steady, but didn’t build, so it was manageable as I chewed on the 27 miles or so to Scott City. I rolled into town about 9:30PM and had to make a decision. The little towns of Western Kansas don’t have a lot of businesses that stay open all night, so finding places for food and drinks would be a challenge. A check of the map showed Dighton 24 miles away and Ness City another 32 miles beyond that. I decided to get a room in Scott City, eat well, supply up and get an early start on the next day, hopefully pushing to Newton. That would be about 240 miles- a very doable chore in the flat terrain.

I found the Lazy-R Motel on the Eastern side of town and much to my surprise, the owner was out front. She had been watching the race unfold online and knew I was coming. She gave me a great rate on a room and pointed me in the right direction to go find food. She was a treat! I rode off to the Subway a couple miles away to pick up dinner, then grabbed supplies for the next morning at a gas station and headed back to the motel. It was a little after 10:00PM.

For the day, I had ridden 189 miles. I was a little disappointed with that because it was quite a bit short of my 250/day goal, but it had been a rough day in the heat and wind. I sold myself on the idea that it was ok because I would get an early start on the next day by going to sleep sooner. It was the best that I had to give for the day and thats all I could do. I ate, showered and called my wife, then set my alarm for 3:30AM and went to sleep about 11:00PM.

 

I might be mistaken

Today was filled with a bunch of miscalculations. I certainly need to be more careful.

It started last night actually. I am in need of new tires, a couple tubes, a new patch kit, some handle bar wrap tape and some Chamois Butter. I planned on going to one of the two LBS’s this morning. Knowing that basically every bike shop in the country opens at 10AM, I stayed up late(2am) watching tv planning on sleeping in. Silly.

Up at 8:30 or so, I prepared and gathered and hit the road about 10:00. The closest shop of the two was on route just a mile or so down the road. When I pulled up, I realized I had made a mistake. Closed on Mondays. Dang. I’ll just give the other one a shot.

Heading onward, the map showed the other shop just a half block off route and about a half mile away. As I came up to it, I realized mistake number 3. They were closed. Forever. Later I checked the addenda for the maps online and saw the closure. Bummer. Looking forward, there isn’t another bike shop within 10 miles of the route until Farmington. Looks like I’ll just have to make do with what I have! It’s only about 300 miles. No biggie.

So down the road I go. I stopped at a gas station on my way out of town to grab a few snacks. A woman in front of me was checking her lotto ticket with one of those scanners. She won $500! That was pretty cool for a minute. Until she started looking at the scruffy touring cyclist behind her like he might follow her out of the store and clock her in the back of the head. I am SO ready to get home and shave!

Just 6 miles into my day I crossed the state line. I’m home! Kinda. Lol!

So the plan for today was to put about 100 miles in the books. Like I’ve said before, for me, that is a manageable day and it would put me close enough to home that it would make my next few days easy.I really didn’t think the 100 would be too bad either as there was a nice west wind pushing me and western Missouri is fairly flat from my recollection. I hope you are looking for the omens in my writing here.

I stopped in Golden City at the world famous Cooky’s Cafe for lunch and some pie. Their pie is really good! If you ever come through, make sure to stop. Great people to talk to as well.

Moving on, as I turned onto K highway in Dade county, following my map, I was confronted with a Road Closed 3 Miles Ahead sign. Decision time. Signage stated that a bridge was out and to find an alternate route. From the best I could tell from the map, if I went through, it was 7 miles. If I went around, it would be about 20. I decided to go for it. Most bridge construction will leave a way for the constructors to get across and worst case scenario, I would strip down and carry everything across whatever river there was. Nothing too big or deep in these parts.

This worked out to be my best decision of the day. There was no bridge, but for construction there had been installed some large culvert pipe with gravel over it. I had to come down a very steep embankment, descending probably 75′. It was extremely steep and unrideable so I was off the bike and doing everything I could to keep it from careening down into the ravine all while trying to keep myself from careening into the ravine as well, being in road bike cleats on dirt and rock. I wish I would’ve taken a pic. I don’t think mountain bikers would have went down this way, much less a road bike with touring gear on it.

I made it across, talked to the bridge crew and found out I had made a mistake. Fortunately I didn’t have to go back the way I came. My issue was that it was 4:15 and I thought I was about 35 easy riding miles from Marshfield, which would put me arriving just a bit before dark. Wrong. I had read the map wrong. I was almost 60 miles from town. No way I’m making it in the daylight. And it wasn’t going to be easy. Lots of hills. The Ozarks were closer than I thought. Being bull-headed, I decided I’m going where I set out to go. Dark, hills and all.

Off I went. About 25 miles from town, the sun went down. With 22 to go, it was dark. The hills just kept coming. Riding in the dark in Kansas was fun. Going 35mph downhill on rough, curvy roads in the dark with just a little LED lamp to light the 30′ or so in front of you is not a good time. Add to it all that my lovely home state was living up to it’s reputation of having loose dogs chasing cyclists, and the last 20 miles were just a bit stressful.

I rolled into Marshfield about 9:30, tired and spent. I stopped at Taco Bell, ate a bite, picked the Holiday Inn Express over the truck stop motel and crashed for the night.

Aside from my mistakes, today was a banner day for the trip in a few respects.

First off, I’m in Missouri! Not far now to see my wife and kids. I look forward to a week or so of being off the bike.

Secondly, today I crossed the 3000 mile mark. That blows my mind. I just can’t grasp it really.

Third, because of the up and down of the Ozarks that I am just getting into, I had my biggest day of climbing yet. I’m curious how the next couple will go in that regard.

Stats:
Mileage-120.59
Total-3029.54
Trip time-7:27
Avg speed-16.16
Max speed-46.34
Climb-5732

A great day

I was thinking this morning of how it seems I write the same boring things day in and day out. So sorry for those of you who might be looking for something interesting. I guess the facts are that I get up and ride my bike everyday. Sometimes it’s hard to make that exciting!

Anyway, I didn’t sleep well last night and was concerned it would affect me today. I shouldn’t have worried! After pancakes for breakfast(!), I hit the road. I left town right behind the Spaniards. They are a father and son from Spain that I have been leapfrogging for several days. Nice guys, but the language barrier is significant. I passed them pretty quick and set about making tracks.

I did have a fairly stiff headwind early on. I was banking on the terrain becoming hillier and more forested and that breaking up the wind. For once, I was right!  The occasional hill and tree line gave me the breaks I needed to keep a decent pace, which I knew would be necessary to reach my goal of Pittsburg.

I had a small setback midday with another flat. Although I haven’t reported on them as of late, I have had a few flats. Probably 4 in the last 5 days. I think the source is my tires are getting really worn. The smallest little thorns have been giving me flats. I patched it and carried on. The break was actually nice.

I stopped in Chanute for lunch and had McDonalds. It was my first trip to a McDonalds in weeks and the dirtiest restaurant I have been to in a long time. Sub par service too. Disappointing.

The rest of the afternoon and early evening went well. The riding was enjoyable and I continued to feel strong. I rolled into Pittsburg just a little after dark. Another day of getting where I intended to go!

I don’t know if it was the good breakfast, Snickers and Mt Dew snacks, the adrenaline from getting ready to leave Kansas or the excitement of being so close to Missouri, but today went exceptionally well. Not once did I feel too tired or like I wanted to quit. That probably sounds a bit funny, but most days there comes a point where I feel that way. Not today. It was a great day!

With such great day, I should not only be able to make it back to Farmington by Thursday, one day earlier than I had intended, but the next 4 days should be fairly easy, barring any injury or mechanical issues. I’m pretty excited!

Stats:
Mileage-125.72
Total-2908.95
Trip time-8:34
Avg speed-14.66
Max speed-40.02
Climb-2728

Eureka!!!

I had a great nights sleep and woke up late again. After breakfast and gathering my things, once again it was almost 10:00 before I got on the road. Oh well.

The whole morning was a slog. Lots of wind in my face making headway difficult. Luckily as the day wore on, things seemed to get easier. I think it was because I got into more undulating terrain. That’s my hypothesis anyway.

The day ended a little short of my preferred distance at 77 miles in Eureka. I went to a local Chinese-American buffet for dinner. I had never before seen such a diverse buffet!  Oh, and they should have seen me coming. I figure they lost money on me!

The forecast is calling for stronger yet winds tomorrow. I’m hoping that the terrain will continue to get more hilly with more trees and help to buffer the wind!

Stats:
Mileage-77.49
Total-2783.23
Trip time-5:52
Avg speed-13.19
Max speed-25.27
Climb-1703

An Oreo kind of day

Today started out a bit lazy. I slept in after 8:00 and didn’t get too excited about hitting the road. After breakfast and a gas station stop, I finally left town just a little before 10:00.

The whole day kind of had that Oreo cookie feel, except the middle wasn’t that good. The first 40 miles were pretty good. Nothing spectacular to look at, but I felt ok.

The next 40 were a big slog. The only highlights were that I met some westbounders. Not doing the TransAm, but the Western Express, which goes straight across to San Francisco. There were 3 groups of 2 each. The first, Thad and Courtney (I think the names are right!) were some great kids. It was nice to talk to them. The next 2 were Mark and Miles, a couple of nice guys and a welcome break as well. Late in the day I ran across the next 2. I can’t remember their names. That may have something to do with the contact high I got just standing 5 feet away! I didn’t hang out long. I had places to go and daylight was fading.

The last 30 miles of the day I felt awesome! I don’t get it. Earlier my butt and hands were killing me and I didn’t feel strong at all. Once I got to the 80 mile mark I felt great! Started averaging near 20. Maybe it was the Mt Dew and 2 Snickers. Maybe it is the fact that I now can see trees and a few rolling hills here and there. All I know is I wish I felt that good all day!

It got dark on me before I could reach Newton, but that’s ok. Just the last 5 miles or so were in darkness. Overall it was a good day.

Stats:
Mileage-111.62
Total-2705.74
Trip time-7:30
Avg speed-14.87
Max speed-29.79
Climb-975

Bitesize pieces

What started out as a planned “epic” day turned into, well, just a day.

My plan was to get up early and hit the road. I guess I’m getting tired cause I just didn’t want to get up. When the alarm went off at 6:00, I did the math. Sunrise at 7:30 meant there was no reason to get up and hour and a half prior, so I went back to sleep.

After getting up at 7:00, I got my things together and hit the road about 7:45. It was chilly, but there was little to no wind for a change an I started laying down a pretty good pace right away. I was averaging 20 and felt pretty good. Throughout the morning the wind gradually built up out of the WSW to about 5-10. This just made things easier, as I was going east.

When I got to Rush Center, it was about 11:00.  I was 64 miles in and averaging 19.8 and getting hungry. I stopped at a bar and grill and had lunch. It was good.

When I left, the route took a turn to the south, literally, for 19 miles. After stroking along all morning, I didn’t have much left to fight the wind. I slowed considerably and was feeling beat up.

When I turned east again, there just wasn’t much left in the tank to take advantage of that great tailwind. I rode the 12 or so miles into Larned with the idea that I would stop and determine what I would do next.

Planning for my “epic” day last night, my primary goal was to reach Larned. That being done, I had a second goal and a third. The second was to reach Nickerson, another 60 miles down the road.

So here I was in Larned with a tailwind and 4 more hours of daylight to go 60 miles. Very doable for me on a regular day. But the more I thought about it, today wasn’t a regular day. I’m getting tired. Not sleepy. The daily grind is wearing me down. I still have the stamina to have done the 160 to reach Nickerson, but over all, it would have been a detriment to my ability to reach my next big goal, which is to be in Farmington next Friday for my kids marching band performance. 100 a day is sustainable for me right now and I need to make sure I don’t talk myself into anything grander.

So the only thing epic today was my will power. I really wanted to go over 150. But the bigger goals take precedence. I’ve used the analogy a few times that this tour is like eating a horse. You can’t sit down and eat it all in one sitting. You can’t even imagine what it would be like to finish the whole thing off. But if you just keep taking bites, before you know it, it’s half gone. You also have to pace yourself with the bite size. No sense taking off too big of a bite. You might choke or get more than you can chew. Today I just kept chewing.

Stats:
Mileage-97.34
Total-2594.12
Trip time-5:32
Avg speed-17.56
Max speed-33.10
Climb-842

A rest day… sorta

After such a long hard day yesterday, I chose to reward myself with sleeping in. Daddy likes!  I didn’t get up until after 8:00 and after eating a hardy breakfast, I finally hit the road at 10:15. It was nice to have a break.

After checking the forecast, I made a decision to give myself an easy day as well. The wind was in my face again today. Granted it was only 5-15, but the forecast for tomorrow is for 5-10 out if the SW, so saving my energy today and doing less miles hopefully will translate to me being able to perform better with the favorable wind tomorrow. We’ll see.

So I just lolled along most of the day. No sense fighting it if it isn’t there. Especially if I can get it tomorrow instead. I just tried to enjoy the ride as much as possible. Admittedly that can be a bit difficult with the boredom of the plains. I watched for things along the road and listened to my iPod. It passed the time.

I had my first flat on the front tire today. Something punctured it and then came out, just like the rear flat I had the other day. I’m wondering if it might be what is referred to as Texas Tacks. Supposedly a small thorn that will sometimes be found along the roadside. The only evidence of something like this is a thorn I found in the bottom of one if my shoes. It wasn’t too bad. A nice little break and a simple patch. No biggie.

My day ended in Dighton. Unfortunately that ate up all of my miles that I was ahead of schedule, but I am hoping tomorrow will be the equalizer. I’m hoping with tailwinds and fresher legs I can flex my muscles and lay down an epic day. Hoping.

It was a banner day today. Today marks one month on the road, as I rode Portland to Astoria on 8-21.
With 2496.78 miles and 29 riding days, I currently have an average of 86.10 miles per day. That makes me happy as it surpasses my goals. I’ll have to wait and see how the rest of the trip plays out, but so far, I’m happy!

Stats:
Mileage-71.77
Total-2496.78
Trip time-5:24
Avg speed-13.26
Max speed-24.67
Climb-351